In 2017, Canadians nationwide celebrated the 150th anniversary of their country’s founding. In association with this celebration, Latter-day Saints of the Brampton Ontario Stake hosted a Church History Conference highlighting the long history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in that area. Early church leaders arrived in Toronto, Canada, in 1829, and missionary work began in 1830. “By 1850, approximately 2,500 residents of Canada—most of them from Upper Canada—had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Most of them gathered with the Saints in Kirtland Ohio, various counties in Missouri, Nauvoo, Illinois and eventually in Utah.”1
This event was of particular interest to descendants of Theodore Turley, who was a resident of Churchville, Ontario, in the 1830s. Theodore’s conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1837 dramatically changed the course of his life as well as the lives of his family members. In the months following his conversion, Theodore also proselytized to his fellow Canadians, baptizing many others into his new religion. The Turley family migrated from Canada to Far West, Missouri, in the summer of 1838.
The conference on Saturday, 8 July 2017, at the Brampton Ontario Stake Center was attended by several hundred participants. The festivities began with a keynote address by Richard E. Turley, Jr., then-managing director of Public Affairs for the Church, former assistant Church historian, and Turley descendant. Other activities at the church building included a hall of “living statues” (young adults in period costume representing significant figures in Ontario church history), breakout sessions, and over twenty displays highlighting notable events and locations.
The conference closed on Saturday evening with the dedication of a plaque in the Churchville Cemetery celebrating the community’s significance in Latter-day Saint history. Rick Turley performed the dedicatory prayer, which is transcribed below. He noted that Theodore Turley and his first wife, Frances Kimberley, had two children who died in Churchville and were likely buried in that cemetery. (These children were three-week-old Obia Turley (1834-1834) and fifteen-year-old Theodore Turley, Jr. (1822-1837).)
Former TTFO president Natalie Tanner and her husband, David, were able to attend the conference in Ontario. Natalie wrote about her experiences in Canada for the Theodore Turley Family Organization, which was published in the March 2018 newsletter. Her article is reprinted below.
Go to Dedicatory Prayer for the Joseph Smith Plaque at the Churchville Cemetery
Go to Natalie Tanner’s report of her experiences at the 2017 Ontario Canada Church History Conference
- “Churchville, Ontario” at Early Church History in Ontario website – includes video of the dedication of the Joseph Smith Plaque in the Churchville Cemetery on 8 July 2017.
- “Mormons Celebrate Their Heritage at Ontario Church History Conference” article at Canadian Newsroom of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – lots of photos from the 2017 Ontario Church History Conference.
- “Churchville, Ontario 1830s – Unframed Giclee Print” at artist Brian Turner’s website.
- “The Dedication of the Historical Marker at the Churchville Cemetery 8 July 2017” by Ann Lewis – lots of great pics of Churchville, the Joseph Smith plaque, Ontario Church History conference program, and letters from participants.
Dedicatory Prayer for the Joseph Smith Plaque (Churchville Cemetery)
Date: 8 July 2017
Video of the dedicatory prayer by Richard E. Turley, Jr., is available on the Churchville, Ontario, page at the Early Church History in Ontario website (JosephSmith.ca). Below are transcriptions of two sections of the video. Transcriptions by Sarah Clements.
Personal introduction by Richard E. Turley, Jr.
[4:45] My third great-grandparents, Theodore Turley and Frances Kimberly Turley, migrated from England to what was then called York around 1825, and after a few years in the center area of York, they moved out to Churchville and acquired some property here. While they were here, they lost two children [Obia Turley and Theodore Turley, Jr.], who were subsequently buried, we believe, in this cemetery, so I have relatives buried in this cemetery. I also have relatives who came for this occasion today, Natalie Tanner and her husband. Natalie was the president of the Theodore Turley Family Organization, so there are family ties that I have and that they have to this cemetery as well. We don’t know where exactly in the cemetery they were buried, but we guess somewhere in this hill area, which is typically where people were buried in old times. They were buried on hills so that in the event of a rainstorm or something like that, the lower areas wouldn’t be flooded….
Dedicatory Prayer by Richard E. Turley, Jr.
[7:23] Our Heavenly Father, on this beautiful, summer evening, we are grateful to be gathered here together, to dedicate this monument and to remember those who have gone before us. We remember especially Thy son Jesus Christ whom thou did send into the world to redeem us from our sins and to make possible resurrection and eternal life. We are grateful that following his own death and burial and resurrection, he commanded his disciples to go into all nations and preach the gospel to every people, and we are grateful that it has gone forth, and that many have received it. And we are grateful that in these latter days, through the prophet Joseph Smith, that gospel has continued to spread, and that it reached this corner of Thy vineyard in the 1830s with the arrival of the missionary Parley P. Pratt, who taught the gospel to many, including my own ancestors who accepted it here, in Churchville, through the intermediation of Isaac Russell, and who subsequently went to teach it to others. We’re grateful for those who have dedicated themselves to living the gospel of Jesus Christ, in those days and in this. And on this sacred occasion, by virtue of the Holy Priesthood, we dedicate this marker to Thee, that those who visit this cemetery will feel Thy spirit, and that they will read the text, and feel the power of Thy work, and Thy glory. And that all who come here, feeling that spirit, might go forth better people, more committed to live the gospel of Jesus Christ, and to strive to advance Thy work and glory. We’re grateful for all who have made this marker possible, and who continue to care for this sacred place, where are buried many of thy children awaiting the resurrection, and we pray that this cemetery may be a peaceful resting place, for them and for their remains, until the time that they are called forth. We ask a blessing upon it that it may be spared vandalism, and destruction, and the other influences that would destroy it or harm it. And we ask a blessing upon all those who care for it and continue to make it a sacred place of contemplation and rest. We express these feelings and offer this dedicatory prayer, and express our gratitude to Thee for all of the blessings that Thou dost bestow upon us, and we do so in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Text of Joseph Smith Plaque
Early Mormons in Churchville.
In August 1837, Joseph Smith, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), came to Churchville, Ontario. Here, he and other Church leaders visited and preached to recent converts to the faith.
A year earlier, in April 1836, missionary Parley P. Pratt, travelled to Toronto and neighbouring areas, preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, sharing copies of the Book of Mormon, and introducing the Church to those who listened. Hundreds believed his words and the message of other missionaries who followed him.
Those converted became missionaries themselves, sharing their newfound religion and the Book of Mormon with family and friends in Churchville and other communities. As a result, leaders organized numerous congregations to support the growing Church membership.
During his stay in Churchville, Joseph Smith encouraged the new converts to gather with the main body of the Church. Most followed his counsel, gathering with other members of the Church in the United States, eventually settling in the American West. An estimated 2,000 converts moved from Ontario. They made significant contributions as settlers, missionaries, and leaders.
“Doors have been opened wider and wider: priests and people flock to hear.” —Parley P. PrattHISTORIC MARKER PLACED IN THE CHURCHVILLE CEMETERY BY THE BRAMPTON ONTARIO STAKE OF THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS, 2017
Natalie Tanner’s report of her experiences at the 2017 Ontario Canada Church History Conference
From the March 2018 Theodore Turley Family Newsletter (pages 8-9)
My husband David and I had a wonderful time at the first Canadian LDS History conference. Canada is celebrating its Sesquicentennial in 2017, and this conference was part of that commemoration. It was held in July at the Brampton, Ontario Stake Center, located right next to the Toronto LDS Temple. The whole event was extremely well planned out and well attended. The organizers did an amazing job putting this event together. There were a number of Stakes included as well as the missionaries from the Toronto Mission. Attendees and presenters came from all over Canada.
Richard Turley, Jr. was the keynote speaker and the visiting authority. People were so thrilled that he was willing to participate. He gave a great address about the early church in Canada and Theodore Turley’s part in that history.
The Cultural Hall was filled with exhibits as well as a “living statues” presentation, where you could go up to a person dressed in period costumes and they would give you a first person biography of the historical figure they were depicting. One of these people was Theodore Turley. These individuals were played by missionaries as well as local members of the church. The displays and “living statues” were very well done, and a lot of time went into making it very interesting.
After the conference was over a number of us went to the nearby Churchville Cemetery where Richard Turley, Jr. gave a beautiful dedication to a historical marker commemorating the early saints in the Churchville area. Theodore Turley has two family members buried in the small, but beautiful cemetery, but their location within the cemetery is unknown. Special and complicated permission from the Churchville community had to be granted for this marker to be placed in the cemetery by the Brampton Stake. It was a beautiful day, in a beautiful location with perfect weather.
Just a few hundred yards from the Cemetery is the location of the Theodore Turley property on the beautiful Credit River. It was our first time to this area and very exciting to stand in some of the same places and see some of the same views that the Turley family would have experienced some 180 years ago. We were very grateful for this experience and for the wonderful hospitality shown by the organizers of the conference. I wish we’d have had more notice so that more people could have joined us. It was a delightful place to visit that we’d love to return to some time.